Community Colleges see Swelling Ranks
Community colleges in North Carolina are experiencing an enrollment surge according to a recent article in the Raleigh News and Observer. Numbers are up 7-13% over last fall at community and technical colleges across the state, and the trend can be found nationwide according to this Aug 22 article from Inside Higher Ed.com. That article cites US Department of Education estimates that project at 10% increase in community college enrollment this year, equal to enrollment growth that occurred in 6 years from 2000 until 2006.
Historically, community college enrollment grows quickly when unemployment increases. This rationale holds true for North Carolina where unemployment is at 6.6% statewide, up nearly 2% from last August. However, administrators note that the influx of new students is coming, not only from career changers seeking re-training, but from would-be 4 year university students who are looking to save money on tuition. Which brings us back to the issue of college affordability.
Those of you who regularly follow the Clearinghouse Blog will recall two recent blog posts about college affordability: Prepaid College in Texas earlier this week, and Kentucky Chamber Tackles Post-Secondary Education Affordability in August. Its clear that the price of college tuition is a big issue for families and thus, a big issue for your members who desperately need new talent. Get in front of this important workforce issue. Check out the plans in Kentucky and Texas to see if they may work in your state. To find out how your chamber can better cooperate with the local community college go to the American Association of Community Colleges for their study on Market-Responsive Community Colleges. For a detailed look at how the American public perceives access to education and the rising cost of college, check out Squeeze Play: How Parents and the Public look at Higher Education Today, a study conducted by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.